A cognitive behavior therapist should be very agreeable to speaking with you about your child’s or teen’s OCD and answering your fact-finding questions. You need to be comfortable with the therapist, because he or she will be guiding you through every step of your child’s treatment. He or she will also be giving you advice, ideas and directions to help you manage your child’s progress between sessions. It’s also extremely important that your child and the therapist are a good match, or “click.”
State-of-the-art treatment for OCD is Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), which involves Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) and Cognitive Therapy (CT), sometimes in combination with medication. It cannot be stressed strongly enough that your child’s therapist actually be trained in CBT.
If the therapist tells you that he or she treats OCD using talk therapy or role playing, walk away. Keep in mind that supportive therapy (e.g., counseling) may help children manage conflicts due to OCD, including difficulties with school, peers and family members. Family members may also benefit from supportive therapy (most CBT approaches involve families in treatment). A parent may need direction in terms of how to handle angry struggles with the child, for example, or cope with family disruption and stress that often accompany OCD. There is no evidence to support the use of talk therapy, however, to treat the OCD itself.
You should also walk away if you’re told that your parenting actions have caused your child’s OCD. In addition, the therapist should be able to assess all of your child’s symptoms to determine if your child does, indeed, have OCD as well as any other coexisting disorders that require treatment.
Here are some questions to ask a prospective therapist:
- Do you have a background in child and family therapy?
- What techniques do you use to treat this specific form of OCD? (You’re looking for responses that include Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Cognitive Therapy.)
- Are you trained to use Cognitive Behavior Therapy, including Exposure and Response Prevention therapy, to treat OCD?
- Where did you obtain your training? (You’re looking for them to tell you about an established training program in cognitive behavior therapy.)
- Are you licensed to practice in this state? (Beware of unlicensed therapists.)
- How many children (or teens) with OCD have you successfully treated?
- Will you conduct therapy sessions (if necessary) by telephone, online or via Skype; are you willing to evaluate and treat OCD in the setting in which it usually occurs (e.g., home, school)?
- Are you willing to work with other professionals such as the primary care physician, school counselor or social worker to ensure a coordinated approach to treatment?
- How do you involve the family in the treatment of OCD? (You want a therapist who will teach parents how to monitor and support the homework assignments given to the child or teen.)
Avoid a treatment provider who:
- Believes that OCD is caused by childhood trauma, toilet training, self-esteem issues or family dynamics;
- Claims that the main technique for managing OCD is relaxation, talk therapy or play therapy;
- Blames parents or one’s upbringing for OCD;
- Seems guarded or angry at questions about treatment techniques;
- Claims that medication alone is a treatment for OCD; or
- Suggests your child will need years of therapy (CBT is not intended to go on indefinitely).
You can contact Beyond OCD to discuss therapy options for OCD.